Help finding a horse poem
September 29, 2008 4:42 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to find a quietly apocalyptic poem that featured horses - can anyone help?

I also seem to remember that it mentioned a ship passing by, and then perhaps a plane on different days, and after so many days had passed some horses arrived and I think that may have been how it ended. It was in an anthology (perhaps one of the Touchstones series?) which I studied at school in the UK in the early 80's but my google-fu has deserted me on this one. Can any literary mefites help?
posted by Chairboy to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The Horses
by Robert Pinsky

Barely a twelvemonth after
The seven days war that put the world to sleep,
Late in the evening the strange horses came.
By then we had made our covenant with silence,
But in the first few days it was so still
We listened to our breathing and were afraid.
On the second day
The radios failed; we turned the knobs, no answer.
On the third day a warship passed us, headed north,
Dead bodies piled on the deck. On the sixth day
A plane plunged over us into the sea. Thereafter
Nothing. The radios dumb;
And still they stand in corners of our kitchens,
And stand, perhaps, turned on, in a million rooms
All over the world. But now if they should speak,
If on a sudden they should speak again,
If on the stroke of noon a voice should speak,
We would not listen, we would not let it bring
That old bad world that swallowed its children quick
At one great gulp. We would not have it again.
Sometimes we think of the nations lying asleep,
Curled blindly in impenetrable sorrow,
And then the thought confounds us with its strangeness.
The tractors lie about our fields; at evening
They look like dank sea-monsters crouched and waiting.
We leave them where they are and let them rust:
"They'll molder away and be like other loam."
We make our oxen drag our rusty plows,
Long laid aside. We have gone back
Far past our fathers' land.
And then, that evening
Late in the summer the strange horses came.
We heard a distant tapping on the road,
A deepening drumming; it stopped, went on again
And at the corner changed to hollow thunder.
We saw the heads
Like a wild wave charging and were afraid.
We had sold our horses in our fathers' time
To buy new tractors. Now they were strange to us
As fabulous steeds set on an ancient shield
Or illustrations in a book of knights.
We did not dare go near them. Yet they waited,
Stubborn and shy, as if they had been sent
By an old command to find our whereabouts
And that long-lost archaic companionship.
In the first moment we had never a thought
That they were creatures to be owned and used.
Among them were some half a dozen colts
Dropped in some wilderness of the broken world,
Yet new as if they had come from their own Eden.
Since then they have pulled our plows and borne our loads,
But that free servitude still can pierce our hearts.
Our life is changed; their coming our beginning.
posted by iconomy at 5:03 PM on September 29, 2008 [14 favorites]

Response by poster: WOW!!! thanks so much - that was soooooo fast - it's good to read that again!
posted by Chairboy at 5:07 PM on September 29, 2008

Are you thinking of Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse from the bible?

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Revelation 6:8 - "And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth."
posted by bjgeiger at 5:08 PM on September 29, 2008

Response by poster: Sorry - no I'm not, as I said in the original question it was a poem, rather than something from the bible, and iconomy nailed it first try.
posted by Chairboy at 5:52 PM on September 29, 2008

Best answer: actually....
The poem is by Edwin Muir
But I think iconomy got the name Robert Pinsky from this Slate article
and wow, what a beautiful poem
posted by changeling at 6:15 PM on September 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for that Changeling, I'm so glad that I found it again, it is very moving and quite unique IMHO.
posted by Chairboy at 6:22 PM on September 29, 2008

Ooo you're right....I didn't finish reading the whole thing, just copied and pasted....d'oh.
posted by iconomy at 7:05 PM on September 29, 2008

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